Reason and Purpose

Posted On December 3, 2009

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I noticed at the end of ‘Alice’s adventures in Wonderland” Carroll gives, or seems to give, an explanation for some of the parts of Alice’s dream. Alice’s older sister gives insight to what could have been some of the characters or situations. “— The grass would only be rustling in the wind, and the pool rippling to the waves of the reeds-the teacups would change to the tinkling sheep-bells, and the Queen’s shrill cries to the voice of the shepherd-boy—and the sneeze of the baby; the shriek of the Gryphon, and all the other queer noises…While the lowing of the cattle could take place of the Mock Turtle’s heavy sobs.”  This all, along with the leaves falling on her face and her imagining the cards throwing themselves at her. It’s funny that she says “Queer noises” and Alice has a ‘queer’ dream. Now that I have seen that, her dream doesn’t seem to odd. The strangeness of it all has its roots in her actual day-to-day life.

If Alice’s sister can imagine Wonderland from her explanations and the sounds surrounding them both, I wonder now if she had been the one to fall asleep, if she would have entered the same world. It may have had some differences, but their being related and in the same setting probably would have produced the much the safe effect. Of course, we must consider she is older and is likely to think more ‘rationaly’, in a dream it all seems rational until you awaken. It’s also curious that her sister attributes her dreaming about wonderland, which we find slightly disturbing in most cases, to be able to “make their [children’s] eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale…” Most of us would assume a child wouldn’t want to hear such a tale with a queen obsessed with beheading people. However, here seems to be the proof of it all. If Carroll wrote this intending it as a present to young Alice, couldn’t he, like Alice’s sister, have wanted to make her eyes “bright and eager with many a strange tale”? I think so. In his own story he gives us his purpose for writing this story, going beyond just wanting to give her a little present.

The Pink Flamingo

Posted On November 25, 2009

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Strangely, I find myself surrounded by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland today.

I started my day off by trying to come up with other possible entry ideas and typing up a few of them. Then, of course, in English I had more time to work on the blog. Later I was with my grandparents after school and we decided to go to the metaphysical shop nearby, we got there a little before it opened so we sat out on a bench in the sun. I leaned over to rest my head on my arm but my arm hit something solid. I was shocked when I turned to look at what it was and saw a big pink flamingo with ruffled feathers giving me much the same look that Alice’s flamingo had given her. Once the shop keeper guy let us in I was fascinated by all the herbs and other trinkets. For some reason or another the shop began to remind me of Wonderland, maybe it was the uniqueness of it, and its varying contents, but either way I felt like I’d been transported to another world. All through the time we were there I could feel the pink flamingo’s eyes watching me. Even as we drove away I saw its beady little eye staring me down.

We then went to the ‘Enchanted Dolls’ shop, not to far down the road. We walked about the shop a little before I gave a start because on the other side of a glass case were two little dolls staring back at me. Their names were Tweedledee, and Tweedledum. The shop lady giggled and took them out for me to look at, all the while I stood staring in shock at the little painted faces and the vibrant red letters that spelled out their names on their shirt collars. My grandpa insisted I take a picture with the dolls and I did, but I was still in shock from having seen a pink flamingo and Tweedledee\dum in the time span of about 20 minutes.

Later while having lunch at the Bavarian bakery I was admiring the wood carvings and paintings around me, and I saw a big white rabbit staring back at me! He was made of porcelain, I assume, and had great dark eyes that stared curiously back at me. He had his paws out as if to hold a tray, but to me it looked as if he were holding an imaginary trumpet pretending he was at court. I was surprised that he wasn’t wearing a waistcoat or carrying a watch, but his mere presence was enough to make me feel like Wonderland was sending its own after me.

I thought after the white rabbit there would me no more coincidental wonderland references, I was wrong. When I got home my mom told me she heard that the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, that had belonged to Alice Liddell, was being auctioned off.

It makes me wonder if Wonderland really is a different world, or if Wonderland is right here among us, just waiting to be seen and to put a spark in our daily lives with its magical strangeness and coincidences. Perhaps the flamingo meant to tell me that he wasn’t just a character in a childhood story; he was a guide like all the others to the little nooks and crannies of our world that still hold enchantment for the open soul.

Stages of Mind

Posted On November 25, 2009

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When I first saw Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland sitting among a stack of other school books over summer, I thought it had a lovely cover and didn’t think much about the content except that I had been terrified of the movie as a child. The next day I couldn’t help it and read the preface just to see what kind of book it would turn out to be. Then I got even more curious and flipped through the first couple of pages. When I saw the annotated notes along the sides I stopped reading.

Something about the notes bothered me.

Yes they were useful, yes they were insightful, yes they were the whole point of having the The Annotated Alice, but something about them just made me lose interest in the story. Similar to Alice; I couldn’t find anything interesting in a book without pictures or conversation. Which this one does have, but the ominous side notes seemed to kill all hope of finding anything entertaining within the pages. So it was with much uncertainty that I observed the approach of our trip down the rabbit hole.

I was nervous and disbelieving when Mr.  Long first presented us with the book and the project. I thought he had just lost all sanity and decided to drag us down to the insane asylum with him. It was a completely foreign concept to me to take a children’s book and analyze it for a high school class, especially using a blog to do it.

We were told to read the first chapter of Alice. I read the first chapter, then the second,and then the third, then the fourth, and then I finally realized “Hey, maybe I should save some of the story for later,” and stopped reading.  To say the least, I adored the story from the beginning. If it were possible I would have thrown myself down the rabbit hole after Alice in an instant.

As I continued to read, the story became more and more complex, and my ability to recognize places throughout the chapters that I could analyze for blog entries seemed to take over where my childlike curiosity had resided before. As much as I wanted to read simply for the joy of it, the pressure of analyzing and remembering key notes for possible quizzes over shadowed my desire to simply enjoy the story. Finally I found a healthy medium; reading the story through and through  for fun, but quickly not to waste precious time, and then reread to analyze. Of course it was grudgingly that I had to force myself to read the notes that, although sometimes interesting, were usually the kinds of things I didn’t really care about while reading.

Now I have warmed up to them, and them to me. (I should like to think) I have gone back various times to reread the side notes now that I can appreciate them on an ‘analytical’ level and simply ‘more information’ level. Along with this new attempt to befriend my copy of  The Annotated Alice I have become increasingly attached to my team’s blog. There is hardly ever an afternoon where I am not either on the blog or just scribbling notes in my book with ideas for more entries. All in all I would like to say that one cannot regret reading Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland or The Annotated Alice. Besides just having a good time, there are so may thing one can learn from the story and the annotated notes it seems a shame for anyone not to read it.

Business as Usual

Posted On November 23, 2009

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I found it curious that there is a Hatter in Wonderland. Of course there are people who might wish to have hats, such as the King and Queen with their extravagant crowns and the Duchess’s huge head accessory, but we see the Mad Hatter with, presumably, felt top hats. So did the Hatter make these ornaments for their heads, or does he have other clients who buy the kinds of top hats he is seen wearing to advertise?

Then again he is stuck at a tea-party all the time so how does he find time to make hats and sell them? Does he even manage to sell any? I would assume yes because how else would he pay for the food and other things at his tea-party. But when does he take a break from his tea and work? How did he break away from the tea-party for the trial? I think that I don’t truly understand what the tea-party is all about. I thought it was that they were perpetually stuck at tea-time because of the clock or something. I think I may be missing a key point within that chapter, but when I reread it I can’t find what it is. Then again it seems to me that there are various random nonsensical things throughout Wonderland that only Carroll can truly justify.

Perhaps that is why the presence of a hatter seems strange to me. Then again not all of the characters play active roles in the society so maybe the hatter- even though he is a hatter- doesn’t necessarily have to function as a hatter. I suppose, however, because it is Wonderland that it doesn’t particularly matter what or whom one is. You simply are and act the parts that Carroll assigned you.

That is of course the curious thing about it all. Wonderland seems to have a past since the characters seem to have histories and day-to-day lives. You would think, since it is all a dream, that Wonderland would have fresh new characters dreamed up who wouldn’t have been able to know each other before because they didn’t exist until Alice fell asleep. When Alice does awaken, it seems like the life in Wonderland does end. The cards throwing themselves at Alice and the White Rabbit being like a normal rabbit says to me that Wonderland has ceased to exist. If this is so, then is it possible that they had pasts, if they had not existed until Alice dreamed them and died when she awakened? Or did Alice dream up pasts for them when she was dreaming about them? Because it could all just be nonsense that Carroll intended to be entertaining and he wasn’t worried about the silliness of having a Hatter who didn’t make or sell hats. Or having a Queen and Duchess with a presumably ‘not good’ history together in a dream where it would be impossible for them to have a past since they didn’t exist until that very moment.

Is Lewis Carroll Actually Wonderland?

Posted On November 20, 2009

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We know that Carroll loved Alice and wished to give her this story as a present. We know he loved children and had show sorrow at them growing up and changing. Now thanks to Vivian’s entry, “And Up We Grow”, I have come to adopt her opinion of Wonderland being a place of innocence. If that is so, then it seems  reasonable to me that Carroll would have based Wonderland and its characters off of himself.

He didn’t want to see his friends grow up and change and he created a world where Alice literally couldn’t grow up. As Vivian said “Alice also thinks “at least there’s no room to grow up any more here.” this might also imply that she can retain her innocence in this world, while in the world she left, sooner or later she would have to face the realities of growing up.” If he could have, he might have made himself a barrier for their growth.  Very similar to how Wonderland restrains Alice after she has reached a certain height.

The characters also resemble him because they are a part of the world that he has made to function as himself and his wishes; that is to keeping Alice young.  The Cheshire Cat seems to be her guide throughout Wonderland and curiously he doesn’t tell her how to get out of Wonderland, just what paths there are for her to take in wonderland. The Queen seems to be the one who presents her with the most realistic mature situation such as killing, and yet she never actually kills anyone and Alice remains innocent. The Dodo, we know from the annotated notes, is intended to be a caricature of himself. The White Rabbit could represent Carroll’s wish to lead Alice into a world where she wouldn’t be able to change. The Caterpillar with his hookah may have been meant to symbolize Carroll’s own unintentional but inevitable influence as an adult over Alice. The Mad Hatter, March Hare, and the Duchess being adults seem to resemble how mad adults become from being ‘corrupted’ or ‘changed’ by reality and loss of innocence. The Gryphon and Mock Turtle having gone to school and saying their lessons could resemble Carroll’s education and his mathematical skills. The Cards could all resemble the things we believe when we are young because before she leaves wonderland she doesn’t believe in them anymore. She shows adult logic at this point in refusing to think what cards have to say is important, meaning that she matures too much and hence wakes up or ‘leaves wonderland’ escaping from Carroll to become a grown woman.

Don’t Enter a Land of Wonder Looking for Anything Except Things to Make You Wonder More

Posted On November 18, 2009

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I was struck by a sudden thought while reading Gabriella’s entry, “Turning Wisdom on Its Head”, and some of the comments she received, that seems to me so very logical and obvious that I can’t believe I didn’t think about it before!

We have all been trying to analyze Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, regardless of having been told that this was originally written as a simple gift for a little girl. Now I see that we can analyze all we wish, maybe come up with some good ideas, opinions, or assumptions, but we can never really know for sure if that was what Carroll had intended for us to see. That is if he even intended for people outside the Liddell family to really understand anything.

First of, Wonderland is a place for wondering. Why on earth do we insist on finding logic and laws in a land for wonder? It’s completely illogical! When you wonder do you consider if what you are wondering is logical? Does it really matter if it is or not? No, because you are wondering and wondering is for processing thoughts and ideas and imagining. If you are wondering nothing you wonder has to make sense or follow laws, it’s just thoughts running about your mind like headless chickens.

For Wonderland to be logical and have reasonable characters would be contrary to its name. Nothing that happens has to make sense or even tie into anything else that happened. If you imagine a White Rabbit and then he becomes a big fat shark that lives on land then that’s perfectly fine! It’s what you wondered so it doesn’t have to follow any law or reason. It just is what it is because that is what you wondered. If anything makes sense then good for you, it’s a rare coincidence.

When you are curious about something you had learned such as…I don’t know, greek mythology for example. Do you think, “Oh, I am going to wonder about this in a logical manner and make sure it all makes sense.” Or do you think “Huh, I rather like that Pegasus creature. I would like to fly around on one.” and forget completely that Pegasus doesn’t exist (at least we don’t have evidence of one) as you wonder about what it would be like to fly around on the back of Pegasus.

Now, before I go off on a tangent and confuse you all with a ‘beat around the bush’ style of getting to my point, I will state it simply. We keep trying to find logic and reason and law in Wonderland. There isn’t any. There shouldn’t be, if there was it wouldn’t be a wonderland. We won’t find it. Unless you are considering the logic of the fact that there is no logic. All we can do in Wonderland is come upon places and people who will make us wonder more. That is why it is a land of wonder.

of course the idea of the story itself can be rationalized; such as Carroll’s intentions, and puns. We can observe symbolism and bring it to each other’s notice, and formulate opinions on what we read, but in the case of Wonderland itself – not Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but the place- we cannot rationalize anything for sure because we don’t know what was going on in Carroll’s mind.

Is Reality Not Good Enough?

Posted On November 18, 2009

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Throughout the story we are presented with abnormal creatures and places, But why? Is our world not good enough that one must escape it through a dream, or for us; escape through a story about a dream?

At the end of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland her sister is sitting and imagining all that Alice had dreamed. She knows that if she opens her eyes it would all change back to “dull reality”. Quite frankly I find that incredibly unfair to our world. Life is not so dull that one would wish to leave it, even if only through one’s imagination.

Of course I cannot deny having wished to escape situations and be the heroine in one of my favorite books, but I would not say that this world is “dull”. Our lives are so glorious; if we think they are dull it is only because we wish to ignore the beauty around us. Most of the time we imagine our situations to be much worse than they are, and when they are as bad, we are still faced by them simply because we do have the power within ourselves to overcome whatever we face if we are willing to even put forth a small effort.

If one thinks that life is dull, then look at the lowing cattle and appreciate them in their simplicity and splendor of having been made exactly in the form that allows them to thrive. Listen to their lowing and hear not rough noise, but instead the intensity of their love for their lives. Their appreciation for what they are, and have, and will be echoes through them, it is how they praise their world for their life and do not think, “If only farmer John would feed me more.” or “If only I could go to a magical world where humans spoke cow because my life is so dull.”

Now, most people will say that a cow or any other animal is too simple minded to know the difference between a dull or eventful life, however, it is our complexity that makes us lose appreciation for the most important thing in our lives; life itself. So that being said, maybe it would be better for us to accept our world and live it happily. When you feel life presents you with a dull moment, don’t allow it to dull you! Do something good to benefit yourself and others and your life will never be dull.

It is no sin to dream; if it was I’d be doomed for sure, dream away and let your creativity express itself through your art and thought, but don’t get so caught up in dreaming that you forget your daily life can be just as marvelous as a dream if you make it so. Don’t resort to pining over stories that only make the longing in your heart to live another life take away the joy you have in your real life.

In other words, dreaming is a gift we all can use to give ourselves hope etc. However, when dreaming do not degrade your reality. The only reason it might be ‘dull’ is that you are too dull to try to improve it.

The Duchess is a criminal?

Posted On November 17, 2009

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We know that somehow for some reason the Duchess is on the Queen’s bad side because she was imprisoned. We never find out what it is she has done wrong though.

It was in the notes of  The Annotated Alice that I learned the Knave had his nose shaded red to signify he was a criminal. It said they did this because Victorians saw criminals as heavy drinkers, and shaded noses showed someone was a drinker.

When I was looking through the illustrations I noticed in the picture where the Duchess is walking with Alice that she had a shaded nose. Now it was one thing for the Queen to have imprisoned her for something silly like talking to loud or some such thing; like her threats to behead her guests that she never carried out. But it is an entirely different thing for the Duchess to be actually guilty of something where she would deserve punishment.

Originally, I thought of the Duchess as a slightly mad fat old lady who had offended an equally fat and crazy woman-who was-unfortunately for her, the Queen. Now I feel a slight dread in having been tricked into thinking she was sweet and just a little ‘off her rocker’. I feel I have been betrayed, either that or she really is not the criminal she appears to be, but appears not to be at the same time. It could be she is still a criminal and has only good intentions when speaking with Alice. Like a prisoner who gives worldly advice, though they themselves didn’t follow it.

Either way, I hope for the sake of the voice in me wishing that the Duchess is a good old lady, that she isn’t the criminal she is portrayed as. I would feel quite foolish in having been duped by a character in a children’s book. Although as a criminal, if she really is one, I wouldn’t put it past her to have that talent of tricking people as gullible as me.  For the sake of the image of the ‘good’ Duchess, that she could be, I will keep denying the subtle evidence of her character.

The Picture of Alice Liddell

Posted On November 14, 2009

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It happened by chance that I was reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and noticed a similarity between Basil and Dorian Gray, and Carroll and Alice Liddell.

It is after Basil has painted the magnificent portrait of Dorian that Dorian says to Basil,“I believe you would, Basil. You like your art better than your friends. I am no more to you than a green bronze figure. Hardly as much, I say.”  “Yes,” he continued, “I am less to you than your ivory Hermes or your silver faun. You will like them always. How long will you like me? Till I have my first wrinkle, I suppose…”

He is angered that he will have to age and his portrait will not, he wishes for his youth to stay always. Dorian honestly believes that Basil will only care for him as long as he can have him as a perfect subject for his art. That once he has changed he will not be useful, and there for not cared for.

With Alice, it seems Carroll may have known Alice would only be precious to him as long as she didn’t change. He wrote her story as a present, true, but it seems also a way of capturing her forever as she was, and making her youth immortal. That way when she had changed and grown and he couldn’t recognize her as his little Alice, he could always find her in the pages of his story.

Alice was Carroll’s work of art, as Dorian was Basil’s. Except instead of painting portraits, he simply wrote her portrait. Carroll’s photography was also a way of immortalizing his friends forever, so when they did change he wouldn’t have to lose them.

Curiosity of Roses

Posted On November 12, 2009

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A red rose can be seen as romantic or just pretty, however, in the case of the Queen’s garden; red roses could symbolize her violent personality.

Red roses have thorns, yes to protect themselves, but they are still aggressive flowers. Much like the Queen is aggressive. She seems to be fond of ‘drawing blood’ and making her presence known.  Since she likes to order that people be beheaded, it doesn’t surprise me that she chooses flowers that hurt people too. People like what is similar to them.

The gardeners accidentally planted a white rose. White roses are just as beautiful as red roses, if not more. The difference is they do not hurt you with cruel thorns. This could reflect on the gardeners being meek and nonviolent. The gardeners and Queen are all cards, and the roses are types of roses, but they have their differences. One kinds doesn’t hurt you, and the other one does.

The fact that the gardeners are painting the roses red, not only shows their fear of the Queen; but it seems to show their willingness to act for the Queen. It’s symbolic; paint a white rose red so it acts as a red rose. They ‘paint’ themselves red, for the Queen. This seems to me like sheep in wolves clothing.

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